2013 Predicted To Be The Season Of Storms
All is quiet on the West Coast of Florida right now, but that may not be the case this hurricane season. Officially, the season begins on June 1st and goes through November 30th. Although this is the timeline when most storms form, it’s not always the case—as we saw last year. Alberto and Beryl developed in the month of May. This has happened only two other times in the past 120 years!
Now is the time to prepare for the possibility of a tropical cyclone. It’s been almost 10 years since Florida was ravaged by 4 hurricanes. Since then, it’s been relatively quiet for the Sunshine state, with only tropical storms making landfall during the past 7 seasons.
The forecasting gurus, Dr. Philip Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray, are predicting another active season, with 18 named storms and 9 hurricanes—4 of those being major storms with winds greater than 110 mph. "The tropical Atlantic has anomalously warmed over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El Nino event this summer and fall are unlikely," Klotzbach said. "Typically, El Nino is associated with stronger vertical shear across the tropical Atlantic, creating conditions less conducive for storm formation."
Warmer than average water temperatures and less vertical shear usually mean more storms—simple as that. The warm water is the driving force for storms to develop into bigger and more intense storms. With long range forecasts calling for no El Nino this summer, we can expect less crosswinds or shear in the upper atmosphere, which would allow for storms to grow instead of getting ripped apart by these strong winds.
That being said, it only takes one storm hitting your neighborhood to make it an active season. Last year, we had to deal with a nuisance tropical storm named Debby. It wasn’t a particularly strong storm, but had far reaching impacts on the Suncoast, even though the center was hundreds of miles away.
It was mainly a coastal event, with storm surge flooding along Suncoast beaches, bays and canals for over 3 days as the storm remained over the NE Gulf of Mexico. Feeder bands moved through our area, producing a couple of small brief tornados. One of those twisters killed 32 year-old Heather Town, as she clutched her 3 year-old daughter and winds were destroying her home. The Highlands County woman was found dead, holding on to her youngest daughter, who miraculously survived the storm with serious injuries. So, even when storms are several hundred miles away, they can still be a huge concern—even for inland residents—as these feeder bands whip through.
Of course, the biggest story last year was Super Storm Sandy, a devastating storm that made landfall just south of Atlantic City, NJ. It is the second costliest storm in the United States, with losses totaling 75 billion dollars. Super Storm Sandy was also the largest storm on record, with winds spreading over 1000 miles. It created the largest storm surge ever in Manhattan, at more than 13 feet. One interesting note: the storm surge, for which projections are usually forecast on the high side, were greater than anticipated. There were 72 fatalities in the U.S. as a direct result of Sandy, with over 50% due to the storm surge. Falling trees accounted for 20% of the deaths. So, the saying still remains true: you need to “run from the water and hide from the wind”.
Here along the Suncoast, most everything east of I-75 is safe from storm surge. However, strong winds, which can accompany a large storm, would still have a devastating impact on areas such as Lakewood Ranch. Having the proper shuttering for all openings of your dwelling is vital for your survival during a hurricane. Damage studied extensively after the 2004 hurricane season showed that homes built after 2002 did better than homes built from 1994 – 2001. Homes built prior to 1994 fared much worse.
Prepare, have a plan of attack and don’t get caught with your shutters down. The storm itself is scary, but the aftermath is the scariest. Have a disaster supply kit and make sure that it contains all of the essential items, including: a first aid kit, non-perishable packaged or canned food, flashlights, a tarp to cover holes and water. Drinking water is the most essential item in your kit. You should plan on 1 gallon per person per day during the power outage, which could last for a week to 10 days. In addition, have a two-week supply of prescription medication because your local pharmacy may be unable to open for a while. In ABC 7’s 2013 Hurricane Guide, we provide you with the complete list of necessary items and many other valuable tips to help you and your family survive the Season of Storms.
Have a safe season.
Chief Meteorologist, ABC 7
The Official Suncoast Storm Team
Download the ABC 7 http://mysuncoast.com/" href="http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/mysuncoast.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/0d/c0de135c-1d4a-11e2-be04-0019bb30f31a/51b642d7c1cf8.pdf.pdf">MySuncoast.com Hurricane Guide and save or print it for an offline reference.